Sweet Thoughts As Summer Wanes
At this time of year, cyber kitchen is geared on melon and blueberry overdrive. Pints and quarts of Vaccinium (blueberries) spill over onto real and virtual kitchen counters. Shades of green, orange, yellow and tan Cucurbitaceae (melons) line up like ersatz bowling balls along the kitchen alley. All available baking trays have morphed into sleek soldiers, for a quick trip to the freezer and hibernation into Ziploc bags, until that day in midwinter when they are called upon to be part of a gorgeous batch of muffins, or, perhaps a luscious pie.
It is said the best blueberries come to the market first by way of North Carolina, followed by New Jersey, then the Michigan bumper crop and at this time of late summer, the wild Maine blues billow and tumble south and west. I love them all and spend a good deal of time making cobblers, crisps, scones, cakes, sauces, chutneys, quick bread, and vinegar. Next Spring I might plant a couple of blueberry bushes in my garden.
If you’d like to give a try, too, check Burpee’s, Stokes or any of the plethora of fruit/vegetable/seed catalogs readily available. Remember to pick a species that grows favorably in your zone or climate, be it Bluecrop, Blueray, Bluetta or other. Although most are self-fertile, planting two varieties will produce larger berries and bigger crops. After 4-5 years, a bush will produce about 5 pounds of fruit. Older bushes produce considerably more. Blueberries like a sunny location, cool moist climate, and high acid soil (pH 5.0).
When buying blueberries, avoid overripe berries, which are easy to discover by their mushiness or shriveled appearance. Look for firm plump berries. Size doesn’t matter. The best berries are those that taste best. If possible, sample a few before purchasing. Once you get them home, pick through and remove leaves and stems. The nutritional reward form 1 cup of blueberries is 81 calories, 20 carb grams, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram protein, and vitamin C.
Melons are generally divided into two classes, muskmelons, and watermelons. We know the vine dwelling muskmelons by their more familiar names, cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, Cranshaw and Persian, although an almost endless variety of these fleshy melons flourish throughout the world. They are often crossbred, and in fact, crossbreed themselves with no trouble.
The most popular melon is cantaloupe. Where did this favorable species come from? And where did it ever get its melodic name? Seems it was first developed in the 17th century in a small village near Rome, Italy, on the grounds of a castle named Cantalupo. The cantaloupe we eat today has a creamy orange flesh, and a distinctive musky fragrance and taste. Besides being rich in vitamins A, C, and potassium, cantaloupe contains more beta-carotene than any other melon. One half of a small melon gives us 93 calories, 22 carb grams, 1.5 grams protein, and about 8 grams fiber.
The question always comes up of how to pick a good one. There are a few simple clues to look for when picking the perfect melon, without having to forage through the hundreds stacked up in bins at the market. Cantaloupes should be slightly golden, not green. Stay away from bruised, cracked or spotted melons. Honeydews, the sweetest tasting of all melons, (nutritional values of 49 calories, 11.5 carb grams, 1.2 protein grams, and .9 grams fiber in a 7 x 2-inch slice) should have a yellow, rather than green tint. All melons should have a slightly soft indentation at the stem end, where a flowery fragrance exudes.
Although these tips will give you a little edge on picking a ripe one, truth is a melon is perfectly ripe when it naturally slips off its vine. Even though the muskmelon family is the most popular, crisp juicy red watermelons are the most loved ones. Hard to believe, but there are more than 50 varieties of watermelon, weighing from 5 to 50 pounds. On average, watermelon is 92% water and 8% sugar. Look for a watermelon that is neither too shiny nor too dull. The ground side should have a yellow, rather than green or white hue. If you are buying a cut piece, the darker the seeds, the sweeter the melon. Watermelon is best when served icy cold. In a 6 x 1.5 inch slice, you’ll find 156 calories, 38 carb grams, 3 grams protein, and 1.8 grams fiber.
How do these late summer fruits fare with diabetes? Very nice indeed, I am happy to report to all you Type 1 and Type 2 blueberry and melon aficionados out there, hovering around the cyber kitchen counter. Understanding that a well-balanced diet of fresh vital foods is key to controlling diabetes, these fruits can strategically complement everyday good eating.
There are some great and easy recipes over at Recipe Central for you to enjoy, using these seasonal fruits. Because the perimeters of the “diabetic diet” have expanded and grown more liberating, a common deception is to inject or bolus a little extra Humalog to cover that chocolate brownie or a slice of lemon cream pie. But, it is so important to remember how transient these flights of empty sugar indulgence really are in the overall picture of sound nutrition, whereas taking fruits such as berries and melon offer both a kick for the sweet tooth and powerful nutrients for energy and fitness.
All varieties of melon benefit with a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice and a sprinkle of salt and blueberries are heavenly when simply eaten out of hand with a scattering of fresh mint leaves. Of course, you can find melons and berries year-round, traveling from South and Central America, and Pacific Rim countries, but now is the time to seize the season with the freshest possible local fruits, as summer wanes.